Salami-slicing, a familiar if infamous ploy, has long been a favorite of assorted shysters whether in business, party politics or geopolitical machinations. It wasn’t invented by the Arabs in their tactically mutating but strategically consistent war against the Jewish state. That said, the Arabs are matchless masters at deploying the deceit, whereas delusional broad-minded Jews voluntarily cast themselves as the ultimate dupes.
In a recent Tack I wrote that “while Israel serially drew back from its positions… Arab orientations during all that time hadn’t budged a fraction of a millimeter. Their only modifications were tactical. Instead of eradicating Israel in one fell swoop (which they didn’t do only because they couldn’t), they settled on slicing Israel’s salami bit by bit to deprive it of strategic depth, render it more vulnerable to predations and erode it by demonization and demoralization. The basic premise remains that at most the existence of the unwanted ‘Zionist entity’ is admitted temporarily de facto, that this entity must shrink and that Arabs have a right to deluge it.”
I was surprised – taken aback, more accurately – by the reams of mail this one paragraph generated. What seems obvious to folks with even a modest measure of historical memory cannot clearly be taken for granted in our postmodern times. Many readers vehemently demanded corroborative information. For some in this day and age, the terminology itself appeared esoteric.
It therefore becomes necessary to explain that the essence of salami-slicing in the figurative sense is small, seemingly innocuous and disconnected actions which, taken in isolation from each other, seem inconsequential. Embezzlers, thieves and con artists, for instance, are adept at shaving off apparently paltry amounts in regularly repeated transactions. Initially nobody notices the minor losses. Over time, however, these accumulate to considerable sums.
IN POLITICS, the salami technique was nefariously used by the Soviets to install communist regimes in post-World War II Eastern Europe. The new overlords started dominating the politics of countries under their control slice by slice, until the entire sausage was devoured. The salami indeed entered our political lexicon courtesy of Hungary’s Stalinist puppet Matyas Rakosi who referred to the means employed by his party in the late 1940s as szalámitaktika – salami tactics. Rakosi maneuvered his opposition to slice off its rightist flank and then its center. Soon only communist collaborators remained.
It’s therefore particularly enlightening to realize that it was none other than the Soviets, in this case via their Romanian proxies, who intensively instructed Yasser Arafat and his henchmen throughout the 1970s in the indisputable benefits of calculated salami-slicing.
In his 1987 book Red Horizons, ex-chief of Romania’s Securitate (secret services) Ion Mihai Pacepa exposes in detail the Moscow-sponsored conspiracy to ingratiate Arafat with the West and “promote him from terrorist to statesman.”
Pacepa was personally instrumental in reinventing Arafat and the so-called Palestinian struggle as de rigueur revolutionary.
In 1978 Pacepa became the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc defector ever. The Americans spent three years debriefing him, so plentiful and valuable was his data. Inter alia Pacepa revealed that Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu was entrusted by the Kremlin with face-lifting Arafat’s image and inculcating in him “more palatable tactics.”
Ceausescu also arranged a monthly stipend of $200,000 for Arafat, helping him amass more than $300 million (when the dollar was incomparably mightier) in Swiss stashes.
Page after intriguing Red Horizons page is crammed with Ceausescu’s exhortations to his protégé to “pretend to break with terrorism. The West would love it… Pretend over and over… It’s like cocaine… The West may even become addicted to you and your PLO.”
Ceausescu offered Arafat respectability “to erase with one stroke all American pretexts for isolating you, brother… What I want from you is help to show that I’m the only one with influence over you.”
By manipulating Arafat, Ceausescu sought to bolster his own image as an indispensable mediator. He aimed to earn himself favored status in Europe and America, and even a Nobel Prize.
Not that Arafat was easy to convince. Even perceived moderation could tarnish his patriotic credentials. Ceausescu reassured him: “You can keep as many operatives as you want, so long as they aren’t publicly connected with your name. They could mount endless operations around the world, while your name and ‘government’ remain pristine and unspoiled, ready for negotiation.”
Pacepa carefully uncovers the elaborate deception honed in Bucharest and executed with meticulous malice. What makes it credible is that it’s not post factum disclosure, padded with hindsight wisdom. His tip-offs about the premeditated perfidy saw print six years pre-Oslo.
Pacepa recounts Arafat’s earliest successes in marketing his supposedly reformed persona. First Bruno Kreisky and Willy Brandt were conned. Arafat learned to slice the salami expertly by the time Shimon Peres shoved Israel under the PLO blade at Oslo, crowning Arafat’s sinister pose with success beyond his dreams.
Most astounding of all is the fact that Arafat took little trouble to disguise his aims. Already in his May 10, 1994 address to Muslims in South Africa, Arafat proudly crowed that Oslo was a ruse, like the fraudulent seventh century Kureish truce to lull the defiant Jewish tribe into complacency until the opportunity for attack presented itself and the insubordinate Jews were slaughtered.
IF THAT wasn’t an obvious enough salami-slicing recipe, things were more unmistakably spelled out on January 30, 1996 (well into the Oslo fiasco), when the much-lamented “prince of peace” addressed Arab diplomats in Stockholm. The Nobel Peace laureate judged that the “peace process” must inevitably result in Israel’s downfall.
“We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem,” Arafat exulted. “Peres and Beilin already promised us half of Jerusalem.”
According to Arafat, Israel’s collapse hinged on “PLO efforts to split Israel psychologically into two camps… We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a pure Palestinian state. We’ll make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and a massive influx of Arabs.”
In other words, Arafat promised to slice the salami. His cultivated assistant/understudy was Mahmoud Abbas, who now dons Arafat’s mantle in Ramallah and like him dishes up salami slices to a ravenous world, while posturing simultaneously as the pitiable underdog and the valiant altruist.
There was never much resonance to Pacepa’s revelations about the origins of the Palestinian stratagem. Even pre-Barack Obama the international community didn’t care to know. In the ultra-radicalized Obama era, salami-slicing is elevated to a sanctioned sacrament.
It’s therefore more important than ever for the shrinking ranks of individuals with still-healthy suspicions of overly skillful salami-slicers to recall that Pacepa – who dealt with more than one man’s share of unsavory characters – considered Arafat the dirtiest rogue he encountered, “lying in every sentence and denying what he promised the day before.”
In time, Pacepa stressed, he “felt a compulsion to take a shower whenever kissed by Arafat, or even after just shaking his hand.”